Chance and necessity in Arthur Peacocke's scientific work

Gayle E. Woloschak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Arthur Peacocke was one of the most important scholars to contribute to the modern dialogue on science and religion, and for this he is remembered in the science-religion community. Many people, however, are unaware of his exceptional career as a biochemist prior to his decision to pursue a life working as a clergyman in the Church of England. His contributions to studies of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) structure, effects of radiation damage on DNA, and on the interactions of DNA and proteins are among the most important in the field at the time and have had a lasting scientific impact that is still felt today. Peacocke's arguments with Jacques Monod over stochastic (chance) and deterministic (necessity) processes driving evolution became important independently for both the science and the religion communities and appear to have contributed significantly to his decision to become involved in science-religion dialogue rather than continuing his work exclusively in the field of science. Nevertheless, although Peacocke took on an active church life and ceased his experimental work, he never left science but continued to read the scientific literature and published a scientific review on different approaches in defining DNA structure as recently as 2005.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-87
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2008


  • DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid
  • Deterministic processes
  • Evolution
  • RNA - ribonucleic acid
  • Stochastic processes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Religious studies


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